Most Popular Post

Sunday, 14 December 2014

On Tick

There was a time in Newfoundland when local credit was called 'on tick.' The local store or the area merchant carried over the cost of the item(s) you needed until you could pay for them. Local store owners made significant investments in their communities through their 'on tick' clientele. 

There was such a store, Hounsell's, down the hill from where my mother-in-law, Sylvia, lived growing up on the west side in Corner Brook. That store carried its customers just like so many store owners did all around the country. There weren't any credit cards. Your word was the basis of the transaction. 

When youngsters went to the store for sugar, can milk, tea or butter, a pound of bologna, they told the clerk, "Write it down." When there was money, parents settled their accounts. 

Your ability to go back and do the same another month depended on you settling your account. When times were tough, sometimes the accounts were not settled regularly. However, if too many customers were in the same predicament, the store owner would not be able to settle his/her own accounts, buy stock, or support themselves, so there was a limit to how much a store could carry for each customer.

On a larger scale, the same happened with the fish merchants. The individual fishermen settled their accounts with the merchant in the fall. The fisher's salt fish was valued and total determined. Then the cost of the supplies the fisher needed was deducted from that total. Rarely did any fisher get money in hand. Depending on the quality of fish that year, and the price paid for the fish, set by the merchant, most fishers had items 'on tick' with the merchant, carried from year to year. The men headed home to their families with the bags and barrels of supplies meant to last through the winter, but March was called the 'lean and hungry month,' for a reason.

Meanwhile, as communities like Corner Brook grew, the community stores carried the friends and neighbours 'on tick.' This receipt may have been from Tucker's store which was on Caribou Road, near Ern and Bessie Smith's home on West Avenue.

Whoever this merchant was, he loaned Ern and Bessie the $350.00 for their house as well. On June 15, 1926, they paid on the house and settled their grocery bill for the previous month. The Smiths had recently bought the house having lived with his parents on East Avenue for a time after they married.

It would be great if the grocery items were listed, not just the prices. It appears that the numbers alongside the grocery prices refer to the dates when certain items were put 'on tick' for the month. The couple settled their account to the best of their ability. They paid $65.00 on a bill of $68.52, which included $20.00 on the house and $10.00 for some unknown item. The result was $3.52 'on tick' again, carried over to the next month.

Ern worked at the mill at this time and his salary could not have been much more than $65.00 a month. How did they pay for coal or wood and other necessities beyond items available at this store? There would be another list of charges for the next month by the time the next house payment was made for certain. 

I would be glad to hear your thoughts and ideas about this or any of the stories in my blog.


Unknown said...

Very good story today Marie. I guess it's not much different from now with people using credit cards & carrying over debt.

Marie Smith said...

I think the fisher families had it tough, a 'hand to mouth' existence. They rarely had cash in hand. How did they manage? We are from amazing people!